As we all know, the recent government shutdown resulted in a lot of federal land being closed to the public, at least nominally. Most of the attention in the press revolved around our National Parks, but, to some extent or another, it impacted all federal lands including those managed by the Bureau of Public Lands and the Department of Forestry. I've lived through several of these events and I have not liked any of them for a whole host of reasons. The most important single reason being that it indicates that the people that we elected to govern us are not doing their job.
In this post, I want to focus on just one aspect of the shutdown problem - the good name of the folks who look after our public lands. Some of the commentary that I have heard, this time around, includes derogatory slurs that I feel are uncalled for and reflect badly on those that initiated them. Some political pundits believe that this Administration wanted to inflict maximum pain on the public by closing the parks. The rationale being that if the public complained loudly enough it would help achieve their political objectives regarding the funding of the government. That may be true or not, but it does not follow that the field staff who are merely implementing orders from Washington are somehow bad people. I honestly do not know of any of our professional public servants who want to hurt the public. Politicians and senior officials in Washington maybe, but not the folks in the field. They are, after all, part of that public.
It particularly galls me to hear someone criticize our park personnel for being overly concerned about the environment. Concern for our environment is, after all, why we hired them in the first place. We can and should continue to have a dialogue in this country about the proper role of environmental concerns, but, in the process, let's not demean the folks charged with doing everything in their power to protect our public lands. I argue that these folks are an extremely valuable part of our community and should be venerated by all of us, not abused by politicians with a political axe to grind. Every time I walk our wild lands, I say a very heartfelt thank you for all of their hard work. Some of us may not be sufficiently aware of how little wild there is left in this country.